Vietnam tourism needs Chinese, Korean, Japanese visitors to recover: experts

By Lan Huong   April 24, 2022 | 11:10 pm PT
Vietnam tourism needs Chinese, Korean, Japanese visitors to recover: experts
Chinese tourists enter the boats to get to islands in the central resort town of Nha Trang from Cau Da Port. Photo by AFP/Linh Pham
Vietnam's tourism industry would only recover as the number of visitors from China, South Korea and Japan return to pre-Covid normal as it's hard to find alternate source markets, experts say.

The Covid-19 pandemic that exceeded two years has caused major impacts on Vietnam's international tourist market as visitors from Northeast Asia, including China, South Korea and Japan, accounting for nearly 67 percent of the total number in 2019, have yet to return to the country.

China still pursues a zero-Covid policy while the Japanese government requires those returning from abroad to undergo quarantine. South Korea has yet to restart tourism activities.

Since Vietnam reopened inbound tourism after a two-year hiatus, the country has welcomed back tourists from Europe, the U.S., Southeast Asia and new markets like Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

However, industry insiders deemed the source of Northeast Asian tourists as "vital" in Vietnam's long-term tourism recovery and possibly hard to replace.

Pham Hong Long, a tourism expert from Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanity, said as the pandemic is brought under control and life returns to normal, Northeast Asian visitors would still be the main feeder of Vietnam’s tourism market.

"Only if China, South Korea and Japan fully lift travel restrictions could Vietnam's tourism industry recover quickly," he said.

Temporary solutions

Lack of Northeast Asian tourists would be a challenge for Vietnam’s tourism but experts added this would be a chance to explore new sources.

Long said Southeast Asia holds the most potential since Vietnam offers free visa entry of up to 30 days for citizens from ASEAN countries.

"SEA Games 31 will be a great opportunity to promote tourism on the Southeast Asian market," he said, adding the government should ease visa policies to attract more tourists from the U.S., India and Middle East to boost tourism recovery.

Between April 7-14, travel company BestPrice Travel welcomed a group of Mongolian tourists who visited Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Ninh Binh.

Hien Kim, director of the company, which specializes in serving inbound tourists, said this was the first time her company had received a group of Mongolian tourists, a new market.

She also expected to welcome more new sources of visitors in the coming time amid the absence of Chinese and South Korean tourists.

China and Europe used to be the main sources of foreign visitors for Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigontourist. In the current context, the company is developing new tourism products like cruise tours targeting the North American market.

With borders closed, the number of foreign arrivals last year plunged by 96 percent against 2020.

This year, Vietnam has set a target of welcoming five to six million foreign tourists. In 2019, the year before the onset of the pandemic, it welcomed a record 18 million foreign tourists.

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